Anshar Wars first existed as a Samsung Gear title, before moving on to other platforms. This sequel iteration first released back in 2015 and it was a very different beast to what we see today. The previous version featured a completely different control scheme, using head movement to guide the spacecraft while a gamepad picked up weapons systems and targeting. Upon first loading up Anshar Wars 2: Hyperdrive on the Meta Quest 2, it seems as if the entire game has been overhauled.
There are few scenes better than a space landscape in virtual reality; that feeling of being able to traverse the stars. Even Anshar Wars’ cartoon visuals have a terrific impact on first viewing, as long spacecraft yawn into the distance while our nimble craft dips and swerves among asteroids. It’s an exhilarating feeling just being in motion, though my first mission was a disaster as I tried to literally find my feet in a frenetic battle.
Playing while standing feels wobbly and wrong, I soon pulled in my swivel office chair and got comfortable. Mission two was much more successful as I turned my chair to focus on the action around me. Where the first game steered the craft using head movement, this sequel relies on tilting the controllers and physically rotating your body. This leaves your head free to move and glance around the scene – ideal for finding enemies.
The Quest controllers do a lovely job of banking the spacecraft, while also being used to aim the ship’s weapon systems – one hand aims the primary weapon while the other takes the secondary. Guiding the ship using a combo of hands and body, while aiming and launching missiles or lasers feels remarkably intuitive making the excitement of the dogfights feel ever more joyous.
Unfortunately, while this is a great base for action, Anshar Wars 2 delivers a rather generic story. It’s a classic space opera of humans versus an alien race, each wanting to wipe out the other. You’ve seen it all before and the lack of any interactions with 3D models of the ensemble removes all sense of emotion. Story beats and dialogue are delivered via static 2D portraits hanging in space, which feels a little lazy given how glorious the ship models are.
The title screen gratuitously thrusts the spacecraft in your face showing off the sharp angles and sleek panels. You’ll cycle through several spaceships while playing the thirteen story missions, and each of them is a beauty. It’s clear to see where the inspiration comes from – the Star Wars X-Wing is a sexy craft, if we’re all honest – but these still feel unique to Anshar.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Anshar Wars 2, is the more difficult combat. While I couldn’t test the multiplayer, there was an option to play against bots who provide a greater challenge than those in the campaign. These dogfights are much tougher due to the sheer speed with which the opponents move and change direction. Reacting to these enemies means swiftly rotating your body and head – half the time I was glad to be sat down otherwise I think I would have fallen down.
Thankfully, buried in the menu there’s an option to decrease the dogfight intensity, along with other accessibility choices to make the experience a lot smoother. For example, you can choose which controller is used for increasing speed, plus you can choose snap and smooth turning rather than moving your head and body.
It’s a shame that I couldn’t have a bash at the multiplayer, because what is shown through bot matches looks like bags of fun, with the game including a team deathmatch mode and a battle royale, the latter of which could prove to shake up the format, particularly because of the fragility of the spacecraft; it’s simple to heal via pick-ups when in a dogfight, but get too close to an asteroid and you’re space fodder.
On the whole, Anshar Wars 2 does a great deal to stand out. Where the game could get bogged down by repetition, the developers have gone to great lengths to keep the missions unique, mixing up objectives or giving you different ships with other abilities to use. Several moments during missions had me grinning like a loon as I piloted the ship through tight ravines or zoomed through closing doors, creating cinematic memories. It’s a shame the story isn’t as cinematic and does little to set itself apart from other space adventures to make this a must-have.